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Material handling equipment includes all machinery and devices uses to move goods throughout a factory or warehouse. This term may also include equipment needed to transport these goods from the warehouse to the final consumer. Material handling equipment selection can be critical to the success of a manufacturer or industry. Depending on the application, this equipment can impact everything from productivity to profit margins. Generally, different types of material handling equipment are broken down into categories based on the role they play in the manufacturing process.
Transportation-related material handling equipment includes both internal and external machinery. Inside the factory, this equipment may refer to a crane, conveyor belt, hoist, or forklift truck used to move materials. This category of equipment may travel between production areas, or from an assembly line to a storage or packing room. Outside the factory, transportation-related equipment generally refers to commercial trucks or shipping containers used to move goods to stores and other retail outlets.
Positioning equipment refers to devices used to reposition materials and products. These may include automated robots or feeders that precisely orient parts to fit into assembly line equipment. It also refers to tilt or transfer tables that lift or lower pallets and assembled goods. Finally, positioning equipment may include lifts or hoists used to store materials on shelves in a warehouse.
Load-formation material-handling equipment includes packaging machinery used to prepare goods for shipping. This includes pallets and skids used to stack products, as well as boxes and crates. It may also refer to shrink-wrapping machines or other packing materials. This category of material-handling equipment also encompasses bulk handling containers, which hold products like grain, liquid, or oil.
Storage and retrieval equipment refers to all racks or shelving used to house goods after production. This includes warehouse shelving or racking systems, as well as bins and cabinets used for smaller goods. It may also refer to silos or drums used to store liquids and other bulk items prior to shipping. Products that are stored directly on pallets or on the floor do not include any type of storage equipment in most cases.
Some definitions of material-handling equipment also include systems used to track these goods as they move through the manufacturing and distribution process. Inventory-control software programs fall into this category, as do tags or bar codes used to identify packaging. Finally, portable bar code or magnetic stripe readers also belong to this category of equipment.